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19 Questions to Ask Your Custom Home Builder

Picking the right home builder is a key step in the quest that points to your dream home.

Asking builders the 19 questions underneath will assist you to choose the right builder to construct your home — and give you trust in your choice.

These questions will also assist you to better understand key steps in the building methods and the choices you’ll make, in combination with the builder, to bring your home to life. The following are 19 essential questions to ask a builder when building a home in Ontario:

Questions to Ask Your Custom Home Builder

Questions to Ask Your Custom Home Builder

19 Questions to Ask Your Custom Home Builder

1. How long have you been building in the area?

Choose a qualified reputable builder who has been building in your area for no less than five years. The experienced builder will know the area landscape, storm drainage, property boundaries, property values, sewer and water locations, electrical power and natural gas availability, traffic patterns, building codes and inspections, and the neighborhood desirability.

2. Does this builder have good quality tradesman?

A good custom homebuilder and his trades will care about the construction of your new home as if it were their own. They should be willing to communicate with you as often as necessary and be willing to offer opinions or suggestions so you can make quality decisions.

3. Can you give me 3 previous clients in the area as references?

Ask his previous clients about the contractor’s ability to do a good job. Contractors may not always be perfect, but if they care about their work and care about customer satisfaction the finished work will be up to your expectations.

4. Who will be in charge of your project?

Ask each custom homebuilder if he will be overseeing the management of the construction site or will his superintendents be running the project? Even if the builder has superintendents, does he at least inspect the job site 4 to 5 times a week? What role does the builder play in the construction of your new home? Will he be the one in control and managing the project?

5. Can I show your construction contract to my lawyer before signing it?

Does the builder’s construction contract give a clear guideline for your building process? Is it thorough enough to cover the worst of problems? Does it cover insurance, change order procedures, warranties, construction time, disputes, financing, builder’s liabilities, budgets, specifications of construction and allowances?

6. Are you licensed & insured?

This should be a quick question with a no hesitation answer, but you may be surprised. If you are using a lender to finance the construction, they’ll require the builder to provide proof of their licensing and insurance, but if you’re not financing, make sure you receive proof. On insurance, it’s important to confirm the builder is not only carrying General Liability and Worker’s Compensation coverage, but is also providing Builders Risk, which is equivalent to Property Insurance during construction.

7. What’s your warranty and how do you handle issues?

Any reputable builder will have a 1-year warranty and some will even have a 10-year structural warranty. What you want to understand with this question is how does the builder handle borderline warranty items? What happens if an issue comes up in month 14? Is it’s time up or will he help you out? This is typically a great question to ask past customers as well.

8. What’s your experience and how is it relevant to my home?

Experience matters, right? Sure it does. Is the builder experienced with the type or style of home you’re planning? Do they have experience building in the city or county you intend to build?

9. Do you provide assistance for selecting the home’s finishes?

Building a new home involves a lot of decisions, especially when it comes to selecting items like cabinets, counters, light/plumbing fixtures, paint colors, etc. For many people it can be overwhelming. An experienced designer can walk you through the process. Make sure you’re not on your own and the builder has someone to guide you through the selection process.

10. How do you ensure quality construction?

Unless you are a builder or really know the construction trade, it’s tough to tell good from poor quality. Sure, you can see cosmetic things like flooring, cabinets and other items in a home, but it’s hard to know what’s going on behind the walls. The important thing here is to get a sense of how a builder manages construction. Building a home is a complex effort. It’s one of the last few products not produced in an automated factory. Does the builder have detailed quality assurance checklists? Who is checking quality and how often? What happens if you’re not satisfied with the quality?

11. How do you communicate and provide service during the design, build and warranty?

Lack of communication is one of the most common complaints from homeowners about their builder. So how do you avoid it? This is another area where your conversations with past customers will reveal the real story. You’ll want to know if the builder responds to your requests in a timely manner and how accessible he is. Does he communicate in a way that works for you? Given the prevalence of technology in our communications with email, texts and internet access, find out how your builder utilizes technology to improve communication with you.

12. How do you ensure that I will not exceed my budget?

Yet another question that past customers will help you confirm, but here’s where you want to know how the builder does his purchasing. Does he obtain multiple quotes? When does he provide quotes to you? How are changes estimated? It’s critical to feel confident that your builder will work with you to keep you within your budget and communicate how changes impact the budget.

13. What’s the timeframe to build a home and how do we make sure we don’t exceed it?

The experience of past customers will once again give you an indication of reality, but it’s important to get an honest estimate of the timeframe prior to any agreement. This isn’t the time for your builder to be a hero, so be wary of a timeline that seems overly optimistic. Additionally, ask what tools the builder utilizes to track their schedule and progress. Like any complicated project, a custom home has 30+ suppliers and sub-contractors that need to be coordinated. A builder of a custom home without a detailed written schedule is similar to the waiter that doesn’t write down your order – you can bet it won’t be right!

14. Can you provide me detail specifications and cost?

The devil is ALWAYS in the details and this is certainly true when building a new home. You must get clear, detail specifications and costs from your builder. If anything is unclear, get it clarified. If items important to you are not spelled out, make sure that they are. If you are trying to compare 2 proposals, you have to make sure the details match to be able to compare apples to apples.

15. What’s included and what’s NOT included?

This goes hand in hand with detail pricing. There are many items that go into the full cost of building a home. The land cost is clear, but there are some grey areas when it comes to the home construction. Ask about surveying, construction plans, existing home demolition, insurance, permit fees, impact fees, tree trimming/removal, fencing, etc. These items need to be considered to determine the full cost.

16. How do you make sure that my home will be energy efficient?

It’s important to understand what your initial costs are for your home, but once you are moved-in, the ongoing expenses begin. There isn’t much a builder can do regarding property insurance and property taxes, but they can assist with your utility bills. Make sure you understand what features will benefit your electric, gas and water consumption. Key areas are insulation, windows, doors, HVAC systems, etc.

17. What makes you different from all the other builders?

It’s helpful to toss in one softball question to allow your builder to get on their soapbox. It will allow them to communicate some items that they feel are important and can give you a feel for their personality and style.

18. Is home building the builder’s only profession?

Home building is a serious business. It takes commitment to keep up with everything that is going on in the industry. It requires solid business skills and a track record of satisfied clients. If a “builder” proposes to build your home part-time, you should proceed with caution. If this builder offers you a “better” financial deal, you need to wonder. The old adage that you get what you pay for holds true for home buying as well.

19. Can I trust you?

Not really a question that you might ask a builder directly, but more of something that you need to observe and make a decision for yourself. Bottom line, you can’t underestimate how important it is to like, trust and respect your builder. Building a custom home is a long term relationship that continues beyond the home’s construction for at least the 1-year warranty period. Regardless of how great their reputation is in the area, if there is any reason you are uncomfortable, why would you trust that builder with one of your most important investments?

If energy efficiency and clean air is your goal, the following video gives you 10 more questions to ask a potential home builder:

More on custom homes here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Custom_home

2 Comments
  1. I want to have a custom home made, but I don’t know what to do for finding a builder. It makes sense that I would want to find a builder who has good references! It’s even more important to ensure that they are licensed and insured, because that means they know what they are doing!

  2. My brother-in-law and I have been talking having a house built away from the city that we could use during the colder and hotter months. I didn’t realize that any reputable builder will have a year warranty and perhaps a 10-year structural warranty. I’ll definitely be asking whoever we are considering to hire about this.

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